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  Hints for Making RE More Boy-Friendly for TEENS

Initiated in a workshop on this subject, Feb. 28, 2003 , at Universalist National Memorial Church , Wash. , DC. Co-leaders were Jaco B. ten Hove and Janice Holmblad.

NOTE: Some of these ideas apply to younger boys and all teens as well.

Language issues:

“Religious Exploration” can be a more boy-friendly title than Religious Education.

“Projects” instead of “crafts” will generally be more enticing activities for teen boys.

Adults' role:

• Adult credibility is an often elusive but essential element.

• There is often much testing of adult authority and boundaries. Be firm but don't overreact.

• Adults vary widely in their reaction to the wildness of some teen boys.

• Teen boys’ behavior will sometimes flip-flop in different contexts. Don’t be surprised.

• Adults can be helpful in guiding apparently chaotic behavior into content for learning.

• As helpful as men are as teachers, they may lack relevant experience and training, and make assumptions that they can or can’t do it. (Either may be true.)

• Boys maturing in this post-modern world often have few older role models for learning non-stereotyped behaviors. Protect those who take healthy risks.

• Adults can model how leadership is important ministry.

• Adult male-female interactions in RE settings can be important role models for impressionable teen boys.

• Adults can benefit greatly from “de-briefing” together after activities.

• If things are really out of hand, ask for help!

• Ensure more than enough organization and planning, and be prepared to make adjustments.

• Establish rules and consequences WITH youth. Be wary of imposing authority.

• Channel rebellious leaders into specific, often customized roles. Help boys develop their own unique support network.

• Invite in guest speakers who bring interesting talents, skills, and especially props.

Things to Balance:

• Complementary adult styles.


• Spirituality, leadership and goofiness.


• Activity and time for self-reflection.


• Curriculum/informa­tion acquisition and group-building opportunities.


• Clear class goals and willingness to shift gears when necessary and as appropriate.


• Strict organization and an attitude of softer, “benign structure” (less noticeable).


• Good, productive space inside and outside.



Jaco B. ten Hove is co-minister of Paint Branch UU Church (Adelphi, MD)
and president (2001-03) of the UU Men's Network.

Janice Holmblad is Lay Minister for Religious Exploration at the UU Congregation of Fairfax, VA.